Post-Match Report

Amsterdam Tournament: Ajax 0-1 Arsenal

Ajax v Arsenal

AFC Ajax -

Amsterdam ArenA
Amsterdam Tournament
Amsterdam Tournament
  AFC Ajax
AFC Ajax
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By Richard Clarke at the Amsterdam ArenA

Arsenal scooped their second tournament trophy of the week with a battling 1-0 victory over Ajax on Saturday night.

Arsène Wenger's side had won the Emirates Cup last Sunday thanks to a late strike from Robin van Persie. It was a case of double Dutch this evening as the striker finished off a marauding run from Gael Clichy three minutes from time to win the Amsterdam Tournament.

The victory was deserved. Ajax keeper Maarten Stekelenburg had been by far the busier keeper, saving point-blank from Kolo Toure and Van Persie during a lively 90 minutes.

Of course, pre-season form will count for nothing when the campaign starts properly at the weekend. However, in the past eight days Arsenal's young side have strung together wins over PSG, Inter, Lazio and now Ajax.

They will be all the better for the experience.

As you would expect just days before the Premiership opener, Wenger's selection over the course of this tournament had been based on getting his players fresh and sharp. Tonight he put Emmanuel Eboue in front of Bacary Sagna on the right flank once again, and, as against Inter at the Emirates Cup, Alex Hleb supported the main striker.

Cesc Fabregas was named in the starting line-up but dropped out with a slight throat infection. Substitute Denilson stepped up and Alex Song replaced him on the bench.

Apart from the Spaniard - and assuming Gilberto and Emmanuel Adebayor will be unavailable - this could be the side Wenger will be fielding against Fulham next Sunday.

With that in mind, the manager will have been pleased for the competitive edge injected into this fixture. Both sides had won their opening game in the tournament this was in effect a title-decider.

In the early stages there was a noticeable change in intensity and Arsenal looked the sharper for it.

They had the better of the few chances created in the first 15 minutes. Van Persie floated a free-kick wide and Tomas Rosicky saw another  deflected off the wall leaving Stekelenburg sprawling.

Dead-ball situations continued to be Arsenal's best outlet and, in the 19th minute, they should have taken the lead via that route. Van Persie lofted the ball into the area and Toure shovelled a volley straight at Stekelenburg from point-blank range.

Former Charlton winger Dennis Rommedahl replaced Gregory van der Weil in the 22nd minute and nearly put the hosts ahead with his first contribution. Wesley Sneijder sent him racing through in the left hand channel. He cut inside Sagna but blazed his effort over the bar.

Arsenal's response was immediate. Van Persie took a free-kick short to Toure who broke forward down the right. He fed Eboue who whipped in a cross to the far post and only the intervention of Hedwiges Maduro stopped Denilson converting at the far post.

Van Persie was starting to exert an influence. On the half-hour he skinned his marker down the right and poked the ball across goal from the byline. Unfortunately no one was on hand to convert.

Eboue fired over from distance at one end then Maduro did likewise at the other end. It was evidence that the game was both livening up and levelling up.

Just before half time Lehmann had to save twice - at full stretch from Sneijder's free-kick then low from Rommedahl's shot.

The final act of the period saw the former send the latter clear on the left once more. This time Sagna managed to recover just in time and snaffled to ball beyond the byline

Ajax continued on the offensive at the start of the second half but Arsenal had much the better chances. Clichy ended one rampaging move down the left with a fierce shot to the near post. Stekelenburg batted the ball behind for a corner. When it came over from the left, Flamini nearly managed to turn the loose ball home.

Sneijder had been impressive all evening. He fizzed a free-kick just over the angle of post and bar 10 minutes after the restart.

By now both sides were pushing forward. It was turning out to be the most serious friendly of Arsenal's pre-season campaign. Jurgen Colin's heavy challenge on Clichy certainly suggested so just past the hour.

But the spicy nature of this game affair only served to make Arsenal play better,
In the 74th minute, Gallas powered forward, exchanged passes with Hleb and found Van Persie on the area. The Dutchman cut inside his marker and let fly but Stekelenburg made a sharp low to his right.

Five minutes later, Eduardo scampered onto Sagna's punt forward. The Croatian managed to muscle in front of Vermaelen and get his shot away. Stekelenburg blocked that effort and Van Perisie's follow up was stymied.

Huntelaar sent a header just over the bar to give Ajax hope but, in the dying minutes, Clichy roared forward, cut into the area and passed the ball to Van Persie in the area.

He did the rest.

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